Interview by Alia Abboud, Chief Development Officer
My name is Sahar. I am the program coordinator and case manager of a project that supports and empowers women at my church here in Syria. As a project that advocates against gender-based violence, our main goal is to raise awareness among women concerning their rights and the several types of gender-related violence, as well as reintegrating the suffering women into the social tapestry by providing psychological support. We also provide the ladies with legal consultations because they are not familiar with the law and how it can protect them.
We are receiving women with very tough stories like you have never seen on television or heard of in your life, stories beyond imagination. We had reached a point where we were calling for equality but, after the war, we are back to demanding basic rights and dignity for women. You leave the session thinking it is impossible that such a violent father or an abused woman exist.
Our source of hope is the redemption stories that we witness. I look out the window and I can hear the girl next door laugh. When she first visited our center, she was depressed and hopeless. Her father had married her off by force. He took her to the area of Idlib and Idlib was under the rule of ISIS. She was 13 years at the time and his alibi was that he was taking her to Turkey to study. He forbade her an education and married her off to a relative under threat of violence. She was able to run away. As soon as the mother heard of our center, she told us her daughter’s story and informed us that her daughter was reclusive and introverted – we may say, she was depressed. This girl came to us and we began working with her. Thank God, she now works with our next-door neighbor, a smile always drawn on her face. She passes by to show us her hairstyle every day. So, our constant source of encouragement is the redemption stories, those in whom we can restore some hope.
While interviewing Sahar, our LSESD team members met Sana*, a young woman who almost lost her children had it not been for the Center’s services. Sana was widowed at the age of 26 with four children. She shared an apartment with relatives of her husband. Survival became a challenge because of the economic crisis and her relative wanted to marry off her 12 and 13 year old daughters, and take her sons out of school and send them to work in the field.
She was desperate and knew no one who could help. So she came to our partner church where the women empowerment program is run. “I was very much on my own. The only source of support I was getting was a monthly food parcel from the Church. So I thought I’d go and seek their help. To my amazement, I was instantly connected with a legal advisor who explained to me my rights as a mother and those of my kids. Not only that, but the program taught me a skill – sewing – and gave me a sewing machine! Today, my four children are with me – and at school. The Church through this program has helped keep my family together and maintain my dignity. This Church is now my family!”
When it comes to faith, we always hear, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We may not be doing much, but hopefully, it is something through which we show the hand of God.
*Names have been changed to protect the beneficiary’s identity.
Pray for MERATH’s Partners on the Ground
The work that MERATH partners does on the ground is challenging and the heartbreaking stories they hear all day has been emotionally tough on them. Pray that they would remain encouraged and that they would experience God’s peace that surpasses all understanding, as they continue being a light for the ones they serve.